Why I Owe My Friends an Apology After My First Year of Chronic Pain
I want to apologize to my friends. For the first year of my disease I was mad them all. I was mad they didn’t come and visit. I was mad they didn’t understand the pain I was in. I was mad that they had no idea how close to breaking I was, or how my much I wanted to not exist. I thought none of them cared. I am sorry.
I know, that sounds strange that I am apologizing for all of this, right? Well, it is my fault. I didn’t let any of them in. It wasn’t fair of me to assume any of them knew that I was struggling with beyond having some sort of complications with a shoulder surgery. They all had their own busy lives, and I know had I asked, they would have been there for me at a moment’s notice. I just never asked.
When they would ask how I was feeling, I did myself no favor by saying “alright,” because I wasn’t feeling alright. I thought that was what people wanted me to say. I thought that nobody really wanted to hear what I was going through. I think I was afraid that if I told anyone what kind of pain I was still in or that I was still taking pain medication, they would all turn their back on me and think I was just an addict.
However, something wonderful happened. One day, I stopped hiding everything. I told them the truth. I explained about my disease, complex regional pain syndrome. I told of all of my past struggles, of the expected struggles to come, and of my limitations. I explained why I don’t show up to things, why I cancel last minute, and why I feel so lost now. Everyone listened, some cried with me, others laughed with me, and today the majority support me the best way each one knows how. They continue to make efforts for me to be a part of their lives. This is important, it is what keeps me from feeling so isolated and alone when the pain keeps me from being able to attend events. If I can’t make a party, someone is sure to tell me all about it or send me pictures from it. They constantly remind me that a disease does not break the bonds of true friendship. It is my promise to each one of them that I accept them for who they are, just as they do me.
I think this is an important lesson I learned. As a member of the invisibly disabled community, I want people to accept me for who I am and what I can give. I have to be willing to do the same. I have learned that not all of my friends can support me in the exact way I would like, but they support me in the way that they can. That is more than enough for me. I found people who truly understand what I am experiencing in support groups, both in person and online. I found by utilizing these groups I stopped looking for that understanding (which will never come) from my friends, and I could just accept the love and support they offered.
I encourage anyone struggling with balancing friendships and their disease to talk to their friends about this struggle. I did. If they are your friends, they may not understand the disease, but they will do their best to understand your feelings. I speak from experience. I lost some friends over this disease, but I didn’t need those types of “friends” in my life anyway. I can promise, the relationships which will remain will more than make up in quality for any quantity you lost.
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